Divorce in New Jersey: Part II (Transcript of 9/19/19 Webinar)
THIS IS PART II OF THE TRANSCRIPT FROM OUR WEBINAR ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2019 ABOUT DIVORCE IN NEW JERSEY.
Mediation. How does it save you money exactly? Well, mediation is a process where a neutral third party will facilitate a settlement and really help you get rid of all the issues in your case. Mediation is typically performed by a family law attorney. There are other people out there that will do mediation. I really caution you about using anyone who’s not a family law attorney, for a variety of reasons. A family law attorney is going to know what the court needs in order for you to be divorced. You decide when the mediations sessions are scheduled and how long each of them are going to last. You decide what issues you’re going to discuss at mediation and you really can avoid the costs of the court process by just staying in a mediation until you have an agreement. Now, I just said a minute ago that some mediations can always take one or two sessions to completely resolve your case. There are others where you will have to go to mediation three, four, five times. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re still going to save a lot of money versus going to court because you’re in a process where we’re all working
Mediation is a process where you really can have attorneys if you want them, but you don’t really need attorneys if you don’t want them. And what I mean by that is you should go speak to an attorney before mediation starts, but you don’t have to actually have them with you at mediation unless you want them there. Many people want their attorneys with them at mediation because you can sit and you can talk to them while you’re discussing the issues. In your case, there might be an exchange of some information or what we call case information statements, which is just a financial document. Sometimes we just need to exchange a couple things. You know, we need to exchange bank account statements or something else just so that we can be in a position to resolve the case. A lot of times there will be settlement proposals exchanged prior to mediation. I always encourage people to discuss things with their spouse and see if they can resolve some issues before you start mediation. That’s always very helpful.
You’re going to schedule mediation sessions around your schedule and that is worth its weight in gold because you know maybe you’ve got childcare issues. Maybe you only want to do mediation when your kids are at school. We can accommodate that because the court’s not the one telling you when you have to be there.
The mediator’s real purpose is to figure out what your goals are. We don’t really talk about the law so much when we’re doing mediation. This is really what’s your goal, what’s important to you? For some people, it’s important to stay in a marital home. Other people, it’s important that they be entitled to move somewhere with the kids. Whatever the case is. The mediator’s goal is to figure out what’s important to you. You probably will be in separate rooms, which a lot of people love because that means you can be open and honest with the mediator without actually sitting in front of your spouse and talking about what you want. Also, there is no agreement unless it’s in writing and signed. This is very important. You need to understand when you’re at mediation, you’re not locked into something until you sign something that has the terms in writing and that should make you feel good. And I think it should make most people feel like they should be open and honest during the mediation process. Obviously, it is voluntary. But if you’re going to start mediation, you really should try to finish it. If someone gets upset due to a position that their spouse is taking, it really isn’t helpful to just run out of the room and say, screw you, I’m not going to participate anymore. If you’re going to start down this mediation process where no one gets the court involved, you try to resolve your case, then really you need to be in it for the long haul.
Confidentiality is also very important for the same reason that you’d be in separate rooms, you should feel good knowing that the mediator can’t repeat anything. Typically the mediator won’t repeat anything to your spouse unless you tell the mediator, you know, it’s okay for you to tell my spouse A, B, and C, but you should feel good knowing that you should really be open and honest because the mediator cannot repeat anything you said at mediation to any third party, including a judge. So really the process is built to make the parties feel like they really can be honest and open and really tell the mediation what they really want.
You reached an agreement through mediation, what happens next? Well, the first thing that happens is a formal settlement agreement is going to be written by your attorney. Hopefully you’ve consulted with an attorney before mediation starts. And so that attorney will prepare a settlement agreement when you’re done. Sometimes mediators do prepare the settlement agreement. I do that as a mediator quite frequently because I find that a lot of people come to mediation because they really want to save as much money as possible. When you come to me for mediation, I’m still, even if I prepare the agreement, I’m still going to tell you, please take it to an attorney to review it. I think it’s very important that you have somebody tell you that you know, in their opinion, this is an okay agreement for you to sign.
The two attorneys may negotiate awarding differences, but what’s imperative is whatever agreement is reached at mediation, you don’t deviate from it. There’s always someone’s that’s going to tell you that you could have gotten more. I mean that’s, that’s the nature of divorce; it is subjective. You know, the amount of alimony, the duration of alimony, how we’re dividing extracurricular activities, how much you’re getting from a house. Those are all subjective things. So there’s always going to be somebody, an attorney, a friend, someone who’s already gone through a divorce, who’s going to tell you that you could have gotten more. But the key here is whenever you reach an agreement at mediation that to maintain that agreement.
Once the agreement is signed by both parties, then and only then will one of the parties file a complaint for divorce. Once the complaint for divorce was filed, the other side is going to sign what’s called acknowledgement of service. Really all that says is that I received the complaint. And by the way, the complaint just going to say, please divorce us and take this agreement that we’ve signed and attach it to our judgment of divorce. So the judge isn’t going to do anything in your case other than divorce you and attach your agreement, and the judge is going to make sure that you signed the agreement voluntarily. No one forced you to sign it. That’s really the only exposure going to have the court system, which by the way, is the way you want to go. You do not want a judge making decisions about your life. So once the acknowledgement is signed, um, and the other party waives their right to respond to the complaint, then there’ll be some other documents that are filed. We call them default documents that just allows the case to proceed quickly. And there will be one court appearance. It’s a 10-15 minute court appearance. It’s very anti-climactic is what I tell all of my clients. But it’s very quick. You’ve done hard work. The hard work was mediation.
COME BACK SOON FOR PART III OF THE WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT……..